Category News

Microbiome boost may help corals resist bleaching

Bleached coral on Australia's Great Barrier Reef near Port Douglas on Feb. 20, 2017.

A simple but powerful idea is to improve the health of corals using cocktails of beneficial bacteria. The strategy is being explored as part of global scientific efforts to help corals become stronger, more stress resistant and more likely to survive bleaching events associated with climate change.

Corals rely on bacterial and algal symbionts to provide nutrients, energy (through photosynthesis), toxin regulation and protection against pathogenic attacks. This complex and finely balanced relationship underpins the health of the holobiont and coral reefs as a whole.

Rather like the use of probiotics in plant science to improve growth and resilience, marine scientist Raquel Peixoto believes that, in times of stress, corals could benefit from a boost to their natural symbiotic partners...

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Marine heatwave threatening coral reefs off WA coast

With WA’s coastline enduring a marine heatwave event, marine scientists have raised concerns about coral bleaching events along the Coral Coast. Sea surface temperatures were up to 3C warmer than average in January, and are expected to reach their highest levels in a decade by April, according to data from the CSIRO.

Australian Institute of Marine Science’s coral ecologist Dr James Gilmour, pictured, believes the thermal stress of the heatwave may lead to coral bleaching events in Ningaloo, Shark Bay and the Abrolhos Islands.

“Low level bleaching has already been observed in parts of Exmouth Gulf,” he said.

“While the recent tropical low has reduced environmental temperatures, the risk of bleaching will continue in the coming weeks.”

The Bureau of Meteorology says ...

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Australia’s Marine (un)Protected Areas

A coral reef impacted by a severe bleaching event

Last week Australia joined a new alliance of 40 countries pledging to protect 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030 from pollution, overfishing, climate change and other environmental threats. Australia already boasts one of the largest networks of marine protected areas in the world, with about half of Commonwealth waters around mainland Australia under some form of protection. 

Job done? Actually, no. 

Despite the size of our protected areas, marine wildlife continues to vanish. A government report card recently scored the Great Barrier Reef a “D” for its failing health. Meanwhile, commercial fishing depletes non-target or non-economic species as collateral damage, and damages marine habitats through trawling, the marine equivalent of clear felling forests...

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Sawfish facing global extinction

They are the most extraordinary of fish, resembling “hedge trimmers with fins”. The sawfish, which is a kind of ray, is also among the most endangered of the fish living in the oceans. Once found along the coastlines of 90 countries, the animals are now presumed extinct in more than half of these, according to a new study. 

They are vanishing due to habitat loss and entanglement in fishing nets, experts have said.

Their “saws”, which evolved to sense and attack prey, have now become a liability, making them prone to being caught up in fishing gear.

“Through the plight of sawfish, we are documenting the first cases of a wide-ranging marine fish being driven to local extinction by overfishing,” said Prof Nick Dulvy of Simon Fraser University (SFU) in British Columbia, Canada.


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Red Sea coral reefs ‘under threat’ from Israel-UAE oil deal

Scuba divers at a coral reef while on a dive in the Red Sea waters off the coast of Israel's southern port city

Israeli environmentalists are warning that a UAE-Israeli oil pipeline deal threatens unique Red Sea coral reefs and could lead to “the next ecological disaster”. The agreement to bring Emirati crude oil by tanker to a pipeline in the Red Sea port of Eilat was signed after Israel normalised ties with the Gulf Arab nation late last year and should come into force within months. 

With experts warning of possible leaks and spills at the ageing Eilat port, and the Israeli environmental protection ministry demanding “urgent” talks on the deal, activists mobilised last week.

They held a protest in a parking lot overlooking Eilat’s oil jetty against what they see as a disaster waiting to happen, chanting that profits will be made “at the expense of corals”.

“The coral reefs are 200 me...

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UK Considers Banning Bottom-Trawlers in Marine Protected Areas

In a possible victory for UK oceans, four key areas of the seabed off England may soon be off-limits to bottom-trawlers. Using post-Brexit powers to protect marine life, the Marine Management Organization will consult on proposed bylaws to prohibit vessels from engaging in bottom trawling in four of England’s Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), The Guardian reported. The consultation runs through March 28, 2021, BBC reported.

This highly destructive form of fishing involves dragging weighted nets along the seabed in search of scallops, sand eels, sole, cod, crab and other bottom-dwelling animals, reported BBC...

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Traditional Fishers—The Unsung Heroes Of Ocean Conservation

Ocean conservation has too long marginalized the very people best placed to lead the most powerful change: traditional fishing communities. Alasdair Harris, founder of Blue Ventures, talks to Ashoka’s Pip Wheaton, about how empowering the people who know the ecosystems best provides a myriad of benefits – to their communities, to food systems, and to our fight against climate change.

Philippa Wheaton: What role do traditional fishers play in climate adaptation and mitigation?

Alasdair Harris: If we look at the issue of climate break down and mass extinction, we quickly see that we’re changing our environment, on land and in the water, in ways that our species have never experienced...

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Is Canada Doing Enough To Save Right Whales?

During 2020, no North Atlantic right whales were observed to have died off Canada’s coast, but this endangered species’ overall population numbers are still down by 11 percent over the past decade. For the last several years, Canada has changed fisheries management to protect right whales by halting fishing if whales are present and introducing ropeless technologies—fishing gear that doesn’t snare whales accidentally—in an effort to save right whales and increase their chance of survival in Canadian waters.

Peter Baker, director of The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Northern Oceans Conservation project, spoke with Tonya Wimmer, executive director of the Marine Animal Response Society in Nova Scotia, who works for the conservation of marine species through education, research, and res...

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Spooning poo to save Queensland reef

“In the wee hours of the morning … we weren’t too excited to be spooning poo,” reef ecologist Dr Vincent Raulot says. But that’s exactly what he and a team of researchers did to calculate out how much poop was excreted by an estimated 3 million sea cucumbers on the 20 sq km Heron Island coral reef in Queensland. The answer? Some 64,000 metric tonnes a year – slightly more than the mass of five Eiffel Towers.

Vincent, from the University of Newcastle in New South Wales, has been studying the “burnt-sausage-looking animals” – that in other parts of the world are being fished to towards extinction – to better understand the vital role they play in the health of coral reefs.

“Sea cucumbers are not a charismatic animal,” he told Guardian Australia...

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What annoys a noisy noisy oyster?

Humans and their ships, seismic surveys, air guns, pile drivers, dynamite fishing, drilling platforms, speedboats and even surfing – have made the ocean an unbearably noisy place for marine life, according to a sweeping review of the prevalence and intensity of the impacts of anthropogenic ocean noise published on Thursday in the journal Science

The paper, a collaboration among 25 authors from across the globe and various fields of marine acoustics, is the largest synthesis of evidence on the effects of oceanic noise pollution.

Anthropogenic noise often drowns out the natural soundscapes, putting marine life under immense stress. In the case of baby clown fish, the noise can even doom them to wander the seas without direction, unable to find their way home.

In the ocean, vis...

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